Greater Baltimore Committee’s priorities for 2007 General Assembly session

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Donald C. Fry, President & CEO, Greater Baltimore Committee and Matthew D. Gallagher, Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor-elect Martin O'MalleySetting up streamlined budgeting and planning processes to address looming growth in central Maryland related to federal base realignment and closure (BRAC) are among the Greater Baltimore Committee’s top priorities for the 2007 General Assembly session.

The region’s most prominent organization of business and civic leaders, the GBC is also proposing passage of a health care package that would broaden Maryland’s Medicaid program, expand access to health plans for small businesses, and provide tax credits to employers offering wellness programs.

The health care package, proposed by the GBC’s Health Care Committee, would also mandate that individuals earning more than $43,500 purchase health insurance or lose the personal exemption for Maryland income tax purposes.

To prepare for BRAC growth, the GBC is urging that the state budget include a line item for BRAC-related projects and that state agencies implement an expedited planning and approval process for such projects. The GBC also proposes updating and funding the state’s Consolidated Transportation Plan to “fully integrate the road and transit projects that are needed for BRAC,” according to a priorities list issued today by the GBC.

BRAC decisions to move a combined 15,000 federal jobs to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County and to Ft. Meade in Anne Arundel County will ultimately generate more than 45,000 new jobs in Maryland by 2015 – more than 35,000 of which will be created in the Baltimore region, experts estimate.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for our region and state,” said GBC President & CEO Donald C. Fry. “We need to nurture public-private strategic teamwork on BRAC that does more than just makes room for growth. We need to enhance our region’s business climate and quality of life in the process.”

“It’s important that the state’s elected leaders and government agencies be fully aware of financing and infrastructure needs generated by BRAC. This must be a high priority during the 2007 General Assembly session,” Fry said.

The GBC is working with economic developers in Baltimore City and the region’s counties to develop a priority list of BRAC-related infrastructure needs in the region. Expected to be among those priorities are improvements to the state’s MARC commuter rail service, including adding more trains to and from Aberdeen, increasing capacity of existing trains, increasing parking at stations, and studying additional stations in Harford County and Baltimore City.

The GBC is proposing an executive order to “fast track” BRAC-related transportation infrastructure improvements as well as systems and processes to address demand for housing in the region. The GBC is also proposing the creation of a legislative commission on BRAC.

Other GBC priorities for 2007 include:

Economic Development and Job Creation

  • Biotech Tax Credit: GBC strongly supports dedicating $20 million for this program.
  • Research and Development Tax Credit: GBC urges the adoption of legislation that raises the credit cap from $6 to $15 million.
  • Heritage Structure Rehabilitation Tax Credit: GBC supports legislation to remove restrictions on jurisdictions as to the amount and number of commercial rehab projects that may be awarded under this tax credit.
  • Life Sciences and Technology Research Tax Credit: GBC proposes the creation of a $4 million tax credit for life sciences and technology businesses that locate at research parks affiliated with higher education institutions in Maryland.
  • Life Sciences Funding: GBC supports continued state investment in the regional life sciences research parks.

Transportation

  • Baltimore Regional Transit Plan: GBC supports continuing to fully fund the planning, design and construction of the Red Line and initiating planning for the Green Line extension from Johns Hopkins Hospital to Morgan State University. The GBC also advocates for cost-effective connections between Baltimore and Washington D.C.
  • Transportation Trust Fund: GBC urges the establishment of a blue-ribbon transportation funding commission to carefully study the state’s transportation funding policy.

Education

  • Teachers’ Incentive Tax Credit: GBC supports legislation that provides tax credits for teachers who commit to teach in jurisdictions with challenged schools or in the math, science and special education fields.
  • Higher Education Funding: GBC supports significant financial enhancements to the public and private higher education system in Maryland as it represents an investment toward future economic growth.

Public Safety

  • Drug Treatment Funding: The GBC, as it has since the mid-1990s, continues to support the Governor and General Assembly’s efforts in providing increased funding and treatment slots for persons with substance abuse problems.
  • Re-integration of Ex-Offenders: The GBC supports efforts to remove barriers to employment of ex-offenders and other initiatives to assist them in achieving financial stability and re-entering the community after incarceration.

Greater Baltimore Committee advocates in Annapolis are GBC President & CEO Fry, whose eight years in the General Assembly included tenures as a delegate and a senator representing Harford County, and GBC Vice President Devon Dodson, a former counsel to the Maryland Speaker of the House and former counsel to the Maryland Senate Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee. 

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